A Pictorial Web of Strokes on White

Andrej Medved

The painting of Milenko Prvacki is made of fragments, planes filled with traces from the everyday. These traces -figures, objects- establish relations that at first glance may seem unimportant. Yet they are what defines the pictorial space as well as the communicative arena in which the artist tells us of his experience. They are vital remnants, caught in a web of strokes and a field of white, which far transcend the merely aesthetic. Such remnants are at once physical and metaphysical: spontaneous, sensuous marks from the unplanned journeys of the artist's hand; and at the same time, nothing less than the very essence and content of the painter's production.

Islands, circles and oases; poetic archetypes enmeshed in the inter-net of the picture, originals indexed in an atlas permanently renewed; a collection preserving the image from being lost, expelled, exhaled into the whiteness and its interlocking of lines, figures and strokes; a field of white blanketing a broken and undulating monochromatic foundation: these are the building blocks of Prvacki's images. Beyond fragmentation and multiplication, the picture exudes a sense of totality and wholeness. The completeness of the construction and artistic texture lies in Prvacki's subtle poetics of figures and objects, a pure realm free from distortion or inversion.

More immediately still than the usual historical questioning -situating the work vis-à-vis contemporary painting, or Prvacki's own internal development-, these pictures confront the viewer with an enigmatic white envelope, an undefined space into which is woven their artistic matrix. The very texture of the pictures, with their systems of signs strung like constellations of archaeological fragments hovering in hopelessly level, horizontal planes, requires further, studious reading.

What challenges us most is the space of this whiteness, not the hue of skin and complexion but a space in itself, of many depths, like the body of a body and the body of a painting. A thin and transparent layer over an absent background, this is a space of persistence, of resistance, the cosmos of an amoebic microworld of symbolic forms and intertwined relations. As though time had come to a standstill and nothing could possibly happen anymore; as though we had reached the end of our journey and had only ourselves left to face. Around us are only traces, traces of traces, in a suspended white world. This is a space in which there is neither air nor matter, no walls and windows, doors or roofs; a space that does not radiate and does not reflect rays, open to infinity yet our prison, where light has mutated into a veil, a screen; into light that does not lend itself to the sense of sight, but instead sees us; into a world that does not recognise difference and distance. And nonetheless, in the midst of this rarefied air, we feel a spiritual remainder, a spiritual gale -the spiritual "drive" of painting.

This interior, enclosed in white, in a non-space, the possible prelude to the fall of everything into the abyss of memory and the cosmos, that is to say, an implosion and an explosion all at once, signals the transformation of the body, the transition from the sensory to the spiritual.

Whiteness, light. The entire space is marked by light: a momentary vision of some moment of which we know neither the end nor the beginning, neither sense nor content. All round us is glory, enlightenment, but this is not the light of sun. In this light that permeates the space of the picture from no obvious source, dwells lust, a longing for clarification and awakening of the world. The viewer is enticed into a space in which he is entirely on his own, in himself.
This light is also absence -on the surface, in this life, the light is presence in another world, in a space of its own; it is internal and it is heavenly enlightenment.

And the figures and strokes scattered horizontally through the vaults of heaven of the painter's space are not merely support points maintaining the space of the picture; they are in reality Stigma. Not on the skin, in the blood, in the flesh, but in a whiteness which is thin and fluid, dissolved, so that we can float in it (though still with an earthly image), as in dreams, in water, in dance and in the belly, in a transparent maternal wrapping, in the buoyancy of one's own spirit. Before us is an occurrence, a fresh sublimation of the spirit -spirit of painting and human spirit. The image of the spirit is thus returned to itself. Now, at last, it is only in itself, its very own. This unification is a moment of fusion and re-appropriation. Come with me! Prvacki's paintings cry out for the return to the self. These are images without truth, providing instead their own binding understanding.

This discussion of the trace at the heart of Prvacki's painting rests of course on the insight of Jacques Derrida in his On Grammatology:
"This deconstruction of presence goes through a deconstruction of consciousness, thus through the irreducible concept of trace… This trace opens the first externality in general, the enigmatic relation of the living to its other and internality to externality: the becoming-space (devenir-espace), spatialisation… Spatialisation (we will find that this word expresses the articulation of space and time, of the becoming-space of time and the becoming-time of space) is always the unnoticeable, non-present and non-conscious… Primal-script as spatialisation cannot in phenomenological experience give presence as such. It marks dead time in the presence of the living present, in the general form of presence… The subjection of the trace of full presence, (…) the debasement of script as speech that dreams of its own fullness, are gestures that demand an onto-theology when it defines the archaeological and eschatological sense of being as presence, as parousía, as living without diaeresis".

These traces are none other than the deconstruction of some meta-model, that is to say the author's testing of its coherence and the functioning of specific chosen primal images. In this, the entire historical background of the primal image is unimportant. The structure of the web of artistic texture is historically anachronistic and is not -to use a linguistic expression- historicised. Rather, it is outside time, and despite the clear transformations always the same, immanent; such that we bear witness to basic changes of original -religious- speech into the planning of a new language. In this sense, we can without hesitation speak of the artistic structure of Prvacki's images as an original poetics of language. Such a language simultaneously erases all ornament, rhetoric, temporal appurtenances, and anomalies that erupt from actual social systems or everyday practice.

The artistic structure of these works is not a complex one, a special visual symbolism, a strict superstructural meta-artistic model that must first be coded and regulated and thus prevents spontaneity. What is entailed are clear, at one and the same instant strict and spontaneous paradigmatic substitutions of a basic visual scheme in which only the syntactic model is important, an endless series of fragments of the basic artistic structure.

The rejected space of these images (in oblivion, in absence, in the nullity of imprinted traces) is reconstructed in paradigmatic examples as a created web of fragmented strokes in ever renewed syntheses and/or dialectic unravellings. Before us stands or falls a calligraphic cosmos of sorts, postulated by poetic means. Semantically, this universe rests upon the nullification of all signs, or to borrow a Buddhist expression sarvadharma-sunyata. Sunyata represents "all emptiness which is fullness" and "fullness which is all emptiness"; painting means pure art as such, which transforms all these signs spiritually, sensually, rationally, into traces that are merely differences-in-differences, traces-in-traces.

Andrej Medved is a writer, editor, translator, poet, curator, philosopher and is currently the Artistic Director at Obalne Gallery, Piran, Slovenia. He has published over 30 publications primarily in art theory and aesthetics and has curated more than 300 exhibitions. Since 1986, Andrej has been the curator of Yugoslavian section at Yugoslavian Pavilion, Venice Biennale. He has also been invloved in many important trip studies including Dunaj, 1972 (Technic and Poetry), Roma 1981-1982 (Nova imagine in Painting and poetry) and in Paris (Artaud, Bataille).